Shawnee Pottery, like many other pottery companies, began producing its wares in Zanesville, Ohio in 1937. It is best known for a dinnerware line called "Corn King" and Corn Queen". Pieces were shaped like a ripe ear of corn.
Shawnee Pottery obtained its name and mark from a Shawnee arrowhead found on the grounds of the Shawnee plant when it was being built. The Shawnee Indians were known to have lived and made pottery in the same area. Hence, the name became "Shawnee Pottery" after the long gone residents of the area.
Shawnee Pottery took over the site of the closed American Encaustic Company. It produced decorative architectural tiles. It was closed during the Depression. Some of the employees from American Encaustic were hired by Shawnee, as were some well-known workers from Frankoma, Weller, Roseville, and Hull.
Shawnee produced three different dinnerware lines: Valenicia, designed by Louise Bauer in 1937 for Sears Roebuck & Company. A starter set was given away with the purchase of one of their refrigerators. The corn line, which was the most popular and Lobsterware(produced after 1954) were the other two dinnerware lines. Lobsterware was made in black, brown, or gray and lobsters were usually applied to serving pieces and accessories.
Woolworth's and S.S. Kresge were two of the more well known retailers that carried most of Shawnee's pieces. Their pieces were meant for everyday use and needed to be inexpensive, between ten and thirty cents. Because of the price, the pieces had a simple design and details were limited.
Shawnee's first corn line was known as "White Corn". The successor of "White Corn" was a line more yellow in color. It was changed from white to yellow in 1946, which was more like the natural color of corn. It was then named "Corn King".
"Corn King" was produced until 1954 when the color changed again to a lighter yellow kernels and darker green shucks. It was then called "Corn Queen". These changes help the collectors date the pieces. The "Corn King" and "Corn Queen" lines were initially premium giveaways by Proctor and Gamble. The term "Corn King" is given to any corn item by many inexperienced collectibles dealers. The value for a genuine "Corn King" piece, in excellent condition, can range from $25.00 to $200.00 depending on the item. "Corn Queen" pieces generally are somewhat less in value.
Shawnee Pottery also produced numerous cookie jars, creamers, salt and pepper shakers, planters, and vases. Some of the more popular cookie jars is "Smiley Pig", which has been known to sell for as much as $1,275 on eBay, "Winnie Pig", for as much as $400.00, Muggsy Dog, known to sell frequently for more than $450.00, and "Puss and Boots" which can be found for about $50.00. Some of the salt and pepper shaker sets can be found for as little as $15.00. Therefore, there is still room for the beginner collector, as well.
Shawnee closed its doors in 1961.
Many of the corn pieces are unmarked or have "USA" incised on the bottom. The corn line was imitated by many other companies, which sometimes make it confusing. Shawnee is sometimes mistaken for McCoy and vice versa. Taking into account that the molds, colors, and glaze were different help in identification. Most of Shawnee pottery is completely glazed inside and out except for a raised rim or "foot" on the bottom which follows the contour of the entire base. This raised rim or "foot" was where the piece sat on the kiln. The larger pieces may be totally free of glaze on the bottom, exposing the clay with mold lines. Some may still retain their paper label, but most have been washed off or removed by the original owner.
or character names, such as:
"Pat. Smiley" and "Pat. Winnie"
Paper or foil labels with "Shawnee", Indian Head inside an arrow, "Shawnee" in oval or rectangle, Corn King, or red, white, or black "Sample" label
According to John Bonistall, the last president of Shawnee, there is no exact way to date pieces from the style of the mark. However, it has been said Pam Curran of the Shawnee Club, that "USA" generally indicates pre-WWII, "USA" with a number is generally 1945-1961, and "Shawnee, USA" with a number is generally 1946-1961.